In The Know: June 16, 2011

by | June 16th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs.  Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today on In The Know, Governor Fallin said that while she has no immediate plans to propose more income tax cuts, her long-term goal is to do away with the income tax. To cope with a budget shortfall, DHS is cutting child-care subsidies for low-income families. The program will increase co-pays by up to $60 more per month and lower the income limit for receiving subsidies. The OK Policy Blog has a quick take on the latest state revenue numbers. Oklahoma will launch a campaign to find out how many veterans live in the state to help maximize federal dollars for veteran’s services.

An Appeals Court reinstated part of the former state medical examiner’s wrongful firing suit. The court ruled that he can pursue a claim that his right to free speech was violated when he was fired after saying he would report wrongdoing by some subordinates. As more Oklahoma towns pass restrictions on pseudoephedrine sales to combat meth, some physicians say the ordinances are bad public health policy.

The Oklahoma Gazette reviews Sally Kern’s new book, in which she claims she was “verbally stoned” by critics after her 2008 statement that homosexuality is the biggest threat faced by the United States. The Delaware Nation unveiled a stimulus-funded project to install solar arrays at their complex north of Anadarko. State Rep. Paul Wesselhoft has dropped out of the special election for Senate District 43. In today’s Policy Note, a report by the Dallas Federal Reserve finds that the U.S. risks falling behind in the global race for talent if immigration laws are not reformed.

Read on for more.

continue reading In The Know: June 16, 2011

Quick Take: Revenues rebounding but still way down from pre-downturn levels

by | June 15th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Budget | Comments (2)

This week, State Finance Director Preston Doerflinger announced General Revenue (GR) collections for May.  For the month, GR was $36 million, or 9.5 percent, above May 2010 and $25.4 million, or 6.5 percent, above the certified estimate. May collections would have been even higher but for the Legislature’s decision to allocate $21.4 million in oil revenues as supplemental funds for common and higher education. For the eleven months of FY ’11, revenues are $409.1 million, or 9.9 percent, above last year and $153.2 million, or 3.5 percent, above the certified estimate. In this blog post, we go a little deeper into the numbers with a series of brief observations and charts.

  • May marks the 13th straight month that revenues showed improvement compared to the same month for the prior year. In each of the last seven months, revenues have come in at least 9 percent higher than the prior year.

In The Know: June 15, 2011

by | June 15th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs.  Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today on In The Know, the Oklahoma Supreme Court upheld most of HB 1804, the 2007 anti-immigration law. The court struck down one provision that denies bail to undocumented immigrants arrested on felony counts or DUI complaints. Tulsa is looking at opening more city services to managed competition against private sector firms after city employees found cost savings and outbid 11 private firms to continue maintenance of city hall. Roy Clark Elementary in Tulsa is gaining national recognition for its success as a community school.

At a contentious Oklahoma City council meeting, councilpersons and members of the MAPS 3 citizens’ committee fought over the schedule for completing MAPS 3 projects. Oklahoma City and Norman were blasted by damaging hail and wind that tore the roof off an apartment building and snapped trees and power poles. The legislature is establishing a joint committee on long-term water planning and a special House committee to look at further pension reforms. A Tulsa police captain who refused to attend Law Enforcement Appreciation Day at an Islamic Center has been suspended for two weeks without pay.

A third Oklahoma town has passed an ordinance requiring prescriptions for pseudoephedrine tablets in an attempt to fight meth, and Dr. Jack Beller writes in NewsOK about the significant negative consequences of these measures. The OK Policy Blog has a guest post about a nationwide analysis of how states are moving forward on health insurance exchanges. An upcoming webinar hosted by the Oklahoma Assets Coalition will examine how Individual Development Accounts can help low-income individuals to save money for education, a small business, or a home. In today’s Policy Note, a new study by the Economic Policy Institute shows that the EPA’s new rules on power plant pollution would not hurt job growth but would in fact slightly increase the number of jobs in coming years.

These stories and more below the jump.

continue reading In The Know: June 15, 2011

Upcoming Event: Webinar on Individual Development Accounts (IDAs): Programs and Policies that Work!, June 23rd

by | June 14th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Upcoming Events | Comments (1)

Oklahoma Assets will host the third in a series of webinars on asset-building next Thursday, June 23rd from 1:00 to 2:00 pm CDT.  The 60-minute webinar, “Individual Development Accounts (IDAs): Programs and Policies that Work!” will show how IDAs offer individuals with low income and limited resources the opportunity to save money for education, a small business, or a home.  IDA participants enjoy matched savings, peer support, financial education and training specific to their savings goal.  Click here to register, free of charge.

continue reading Upcoming Event: Webinar on Individual Development Accounts (IDAs): Programs and Policies that Work!, June 23rd

Center on Budget: States moving forward on health reform’s Insurance Exchanges

by | June 14th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (2)

This post by Dave Chandra originally appeared here on the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) Off the Charts Blog.  OK Policy recently blogged about two unsuccessful bills this session to establish Oklahoma’s Health Insurance Exchange.  To learn more about exchanges and their requirements under the new federal health reform law, click here.

The continuing rhetorical battle over health reform shouldn’t obscure the fact that states are taking important steps to implement last year’s historic legislation.  For example, virtually every state has made at least some progress toward setting up health insurance marketplaces or “exchanges,” which will give individuals and small businesses affordable, comprehensive coverage options.  The Affordable Care Act calls for states to have exchanges up and running in January 2014.

California and Maryland have been out front:  both states have enacted laws setting up their exchanges and appointed the boards that will run them.  Now they’re beginning to tackle the key issues that must be resolved for the exchanges to succeed.

continue reading Center on Budget: States moving forward on health reform’s Insurance Exchanges

In The Know: June 14, 2011

by | June 14th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs.  Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today on In The Know, Tulsa Public Schools will eliminate 65 out of 140 special education positions and cut $1.3 million from student counseling to cope with state budget cuts. State revenue improvements are expected to more than double the previous estimate of $71.1M going into the Rainy Day Fund this year. Oklahoma civil rights leader Clara Luper will lie in repose at the state Capitol Thursday afternoon. A public wake will be held Wednesday and a public funeral service will be Friday at the Cox Convention Center.

The Osage Nation is speaking out against planned wind farms because of concerns that they will interfere with oil and gas extraction, which pays royalties to tribal members. Oklahoma soldiers in the 45th Infantry have begun deploying to Afghanistan. Former State Senator Debbe Leftwich’s request for a dismissal of charges that she accepted a bribe in exchange for not running for reelection was denied. The OK Policy Blog assesses last session’s record on stopping the runaway train of tax expenditures.

Rep. Paul Wesselhoft will run in a special election for the state Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Jim Reynolds. The seat will move due to redistricting in 2012, after which Wesselhoft says he will run for another seat currently held by term-limited Sen. Jonathan Nichols. Out of the 51 largest metro areas, Oklahoma City was one of only three that saw its core city grow faster than the suburbs. In today’s Policy Note, the Economix blog explains how Britain has been able to reduce its child poverty rate by half since 1994, even as child poverty in the United States has gone up.

These stories and more below the jump.

continue reading In The Know: June 14, 2011

Can we stop the runaway train of tax expenditures?

by | June 13th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, Taxes | Comments (7)

In an earlier post, we discussed tax breaks that had been extended or newly created in the most recent legislative session. The governor promised to eliminate tax credits that “do not create jobs,” but there were no successful bills to end credits or any other tax expenditure this year.

The unwillingness so far of state leaders to rein in tax expenditures is a serious problem. As OK Policy pointed out in a pair of issue briefs[1, 2], Oklahoma’s tax code is full of holes created by numerous exemptions, deductions, and credits. The estimated cost of all these tax breaks is $5 billion a year. In an issue brief released last year, OK Policy also laid out several principles for how to make tax expenditures more transparent and accountable and distinguish good tax breaks from bad.

To understand why that is important, consider that direct appropriations must be approved by the legislature every year.  Tax credits, deductions, and exemptions reduce state funds to accomplish policy goals in the same way as direct spending. But as the Center on Budget Priorities explained in a report on tax expenditure transparency, “Most tax expenditures are written into the tax code and thus will continue indefinitely — regardless of how costly they may become over time — unless the legislature acts to discontinue them.”

continue reading Can we stop the runaway train of tax expenditures?

In The Know: June 13, 2011

by | June 13th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs.  Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today on In The Know, Daily Oklahoman Editor Ed Kelley is leaving the paper to become editor of the Washington Times. The Oklahoma City school district is negotiating with a group of business leaders to turn a planned downtown elementary into a hybrid charter school. The loss of a campus clinic at an Oklahoma City school for pregnant and parenting teens is making it harder for teen mothers to get an education, and MAPS renovations will not help bring back the clinic.

The American Indian Cultural Center and Museum is half finished with only enough funding to continue construction until January. Several jurors on the Jerome Ersland pharmacy killing say they are stunned by public criticism of their verdict. Property sales by Tulsa County are increasing dramatically due to a change in state law that requires the county to sell properties directly instead of selling the liens.

Amid attacks on Planned Parenthood, Janet Pearson writes in The Tulsa World on the importance of family planning to save money and reduce abortions and unwanted pregnancies. Lawrence Baines writes a defense of OU’s teacher preparation program. Doug Dawgz Blog highlights some coverage of the life of Clare Luper. In today’s Policy Note, The Education Trust has a report on how most university financial aid policies do a poor job of helping low-income students.

Read on for more.

continue reading In The Know: June 13, 2011

The Weekly Wonk – June 10, 2011

by | June 10th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, OK Policy | Comments (0)

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk is dedicated to this week’s events, publications, and blog posts.

This week at OK Policy, we review the tax credits and exemptions that were added or extended this session, despite the Governor’s expressed commitment to eliminate tax credits that do not create jobs.  Yesterday’s post, Falling Unemployment: Are workers getting jobs or getting discouraged? uses two alternative indicators of unemployment in Oklahoma to gauge the health of the state’s job market.

Sweeping changes to the nation’s health care system were enacted in recent years and talk of even more changes continues to reverberate in debates over the federal budget.  Central to the discussion and always a lightning rod in health care debates is the future of Medicare.  Read Wednesday’s post to find out what is changing with respect to Medicare. Lastly, in Hunger doesn’t take a summer break we highlight the importance of access to the federal Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) for low-income children.

continue reading The Weekly Wonk – June 10, 2011

In The Know: June 10, 2011

by | June 10th, 2011 | Posted in Blog, In The Know | Comments (0)

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs.  Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to gperry@okpolicy.org. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today on In The Know, an audit of Broken Arrow Public Schools has cleared the district of several charges, but the attorney general continues to investigate possible open records violations and favoritism to vendors. You can see the full audit report here. House Minority Leader Scott Inman is charging that the Board of Education vote to expand Superintendent Barresi’s powers was not legitimate. Inman has requested an attorney general’s opinion. The Tulsa Community College Board of Regents approved a tuition and fee increase and continued a salary freeze for the third year.

PSO announced its plans to comply with EPA regulations on coal plant emissions by idling two plants in 2016 to install scrubbers. Chesapeake Energy is looking for alternative sources of power for operations in areas not served by the grid. House Majority Leader Kris Steele writes in NewsOK about the task force to examine the numerous tax breaks in Oklahoma. OK Policy previously released an issue brief on how Oklahoma can improve the transparency and accountability of tax breaks. A Lawton man mailed back $160 in tax rebates, saying the state needed it more than he did. On the OK Policy Blog, we delve into unemployment data to see what’s really going on with Oklahoma’s job market.

The Art in Public Places program has been suspended for three years, but some are questioning whether that will actually save the state any money. Representative Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, has asked the attorney general to investigate the legality of new ordinances in two Oklahoma towns that ban the sale of pseudoephedrine. A National Science Foundation grant is will fund a workshop to help revitalize American Indian languages, and FEMA grants are paying 75 percent of the cost of new storm shelters in a number of Oklahoma communities. The courtroom in Drumright will stay open after the City Commission voted to reduce the rent by half.

In today’s Policy Note, The New York Times reports that despite public hostility to the idea from Governor Perry, behind the scenes Texas is planning for an insurance exchange. More below the jump.

continue reading In The Know: June 10, 2011